One of the most versatile artists of his day, and the pre-eminent painter of fish still lifes, Van Beyeren is also celebrated as one of the greatest masters of the pronk still life, of which the present work is an example. Born in The Hague in 1620, he first studied under his brother-in-law, Pieter de Putter, a specialist in fish still lifes. Having first become a master in The Hague in 1640, where in 1656 he helped to found the Confrerie Pictura, mounting debts forced him to move to Delft from 1657 to 1661, although he was again in The Hague between 1663 and 1669. He was then recorded in Amsterdam, Alkmaar and Gouda before settling in Overschie in 1678. Van Beyeren's pronk still lifes date from the 1650s and 1660s. These pictures generally depict a table laden with a variety of ornate glassware, gilded goblets, nautilus cups, silver dishes, Chinese porcelains, costly fruits and other delicacies, many of the objects appearing repeatedly in his paintings.
Van Beyeren's compositions were influenced by those of Jan Davidsz. de Heem but are noticeably more broadly painted - particularly so in his smaller works - and employ a softer palette. Like many such pictures, they are best appreciated at a slight distance, where the virtuosity of the artist's handling, and his understanding of colour, become apparent. The recent catalogue of the exhibition Still-Life Paintings from the Netherlands 1550-1720 (A. Chong and W. Kloek, eds., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and Cleveland, Museum of Art, 1999) remarked on this in describing the Silver wine jug, ham and fruit of circa 1660-66 in the Cleveland Museum of Art: 'the silver jug is rendered with rough, almost abstract strokes that seem virtually without form when seen up close. But at a distance, the fully convincing rendering glints with complex reflections and becomes the centrepiece of a colorful ensemble.' It is perhaps unsurprising that Van Beyeren's works were less appreciated in his own day than those of artists such as de Heem, but were hugely admired by later collectors and artists more familiar with and appreciative of the direct and spontaneous character of his works.
We are grateful to Mr. Fred Meijer of the RKD for confirming the attribution after examining the picture in the original.